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Improving food security in vulnerable households in Swaziland

Summary of evaluation1

Proportional piling as part of training in food security assessment

From 2002 to the end of 2005, the Finnish Red Cross and the Finnish Government supported a food security pilot project implemented by the Baphali Swaziland Red Cross Society, with assistance of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. The project was carried out in three different areas in Swaziland. The objective of the project was to make vulnerable households food secure by improving their food production and increasing their income - thereby reducing their vulnerability to droughts and other disasters including HIV/AIDS. Swaziland has a high incidence of HIV/AIDS with an estimated 39% of adults affected at the end of 2003. Furthermore, some 66 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. This has bred a vicious cycle; reduced ability to cope with the effects of drought due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, and weakness brought on by drought, in turn compounding people's risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS.

Four types of project were undertaken within the overall programme; communal gardens, individual backyard gardens, communal fish ponds, and communal poultry production.

As a crucial first step, individuals within the community made land available with permission from the chief, which was then cleared and fenced by the project members. Financial assistance was provided for project infrastructure, e.g. construction of dams and ponds, irrigation pumps, etc. Apart from the backyard gardens, a committee within each community, selected by the project members, managed all of the projects. Training was offered in the areas of food preservation techniques, agricultural skills and project management.

A review of the project led to a number of findings. These included the following; Approximately three quarters of the crops from the communal gardens and individual backyard gardens were consumed directly by household members of the project. The remainder was shared with vulnerable people, bartered or sold. Cash earnings were used to purchase school material and essential nonfood household items and to pay for medical consultations and transport.

In cases where the soil on project sites was too poor for farming purposes, the introduction of poultry production served to optimise land use and provided a viable means of reducing vulnerability. The projects generated income, strengthened coping strategies and were sustainable. Some communities used the income earned to expand their operations into egg production. Larger scale contracts to supply supermarkets were also being developed, however their impact has yet to be determined.

The fish production project ran into some difficulties, due primarily to poor water retention in the fish ponds.

Not all projects were equally successful. Individual backyard gardens provided almost immediate results, while some of the collective projects required a longer timeframe before delivering the desired benefits. The communal projects, nevertheless, led to important contributions in sustaining social networks - including the desire and ability to assist the ill, elderly and orphaned.

Focus group discussion

Among the lessons learned and recommendations for project replication were the following;

Collecting water from a house roof

There were also a number of recommendations with respect to sustainability of the project. These included;

For more information, contact Mija-tesse Ververs, IFRC, Geneva, email: Mija.Ververs@ifrc.org

Show footnotes

1Swaziland: Good field practices to share and replicate. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 2006.

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Improving food security in vulnerable households in Swaziland. Field Exchange 29, December 2006. p30. www.ennonline.net/fex/29/foodsecurity